Divorce and custody disputes are emotionally overwhelming, the complexities of the court process can certainly add to an already stressful situation. Overall, there are two aspects to a divorce case: (1) the issues that need to be decided and (2) the process used to issues decide the issues.
What issues does a divorce need to decide?
A divorce case can be broken down into three categories, visual these categories as three buckets. The first bucket will divide your marital estate, including all assets and debts. The second bucket deals with custody and parenting plans. The third bucket contains orders of child support and/or alimony if it applies.
What is the timeline/court process in a divorce?
There are many ways to fill the three buckets. If you and your spouse are committed to settle the case without having to go into court, this is referred to as alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
There are many forms of ADR including mediation and collaborative law. If you are able to settle your divorce without court intervention, you and your spouse have control on the terms of the agreement, or how the buckets are filled. Once you submit your settlement documents, the court usually takes 4-6 weeks to approve the agreement. In the event the court has questions, you may have to go to court. However, in most cases, people who settle never step inside a courtroom.
In the event you cannot settle your case using an ADR method, you and your spouse give up your control over your case and let a court will decide how to fill the buckets. This is done in a series of hearings.
If a petition for divorce is filed, the parties will be ordered to attend a first appearance. At the first appearance a judge or marital master will explain the divorce process and encourage mediation. In most cases with children, the court will order a mandatory mediation. If the case does not settle in a court-appointed mediation, the court will usually schedule the case for a temporary hearing.
At a temporary hearing, the court will issue “temporary orders”. These are court orders that are in place during the duration of the divorce process. These temporary orders usually encompass who will live in the marital home, whether support will be paid and a parenting plan.
In most cases, if there are no motions filed, the court will next schedule a pretrial. At the pretrial, the court will schedule the date for your final hearing (trial) and address discovery deadlines.
At the end of the trial, the court will issue orders usually two to three months later. If you believe the court erred in the law or facts of the case, you can file an appeal within 30 days to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
Attorney Connolly has helped hundreds of clients through the divorce process. She is a board-certified family trial law specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. She is the only family law attorney in New Hampshire with this accreditation. Attorney Connolly is also certified in the area of collaborative divorce. She has successfully represented countless clients in mediation, collaborative meetings and trial.